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World briefly for July 20
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AURORA, Colo. (AP) — A gunman opened fire early Friday at a movie theater in a Denver suburb, killing 14 people and leaving at least 50 other injured, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

The shooting occurred during a showing of the latest Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," police said.

The violence erupted about 12:30 a.m. MDT as the gunman stood at the front of one of the Century 16 theaters at the Aurora Mall.

"Witnesses tell us he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and some gas emerged and the gunman opened fire," Oates said at a news conference.

One suspect is in custody and there's no evidence of any additional shooters, Oates said.


Syria's national security chief dies of wounds from rebel blast, 4th regime official killed

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian TV says the country's national security chief has died of wounds suffered in a rebel blast.

Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar is the fourth member of President Bashar Assad's inner circle to die in Wednesday's bombing that targeted security chiefs meeting in the national security headquarters in Damascus.

The TV report says Ikhtiyar died Friday morning.

The others killed in the blast were Gen. Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister who was married to Assad's elder sister, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha and Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister.


Bulgarian prosecutor: Bomber who attacked bus full of Israeli tourist had tried to rent car

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A man believed to have carried out a suicide attack on a bus full of Israeli vacationers had a short haircut, not the long hair seen in a security video, and tried to rent a car in the days before the bombing but was turned down because his ID appeared suspicious, a Bulgarian prosecutor said Friday.

Authorities looking for clues as to the identity of the man suspected of killing himself and six others are using his fingerprints, his DNA and his fake Michigan driver's license.

Security camera footage from before the attack showed the suspected bomber wandering in and out of the terminal, wearing a baseball cap over long hair, and a T-shirt, and plaid shorts, with a bulky backpack believed to contain the bomb.

Israel was quick to blame Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for the attack and a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Thursday night that Hezbollah was believed to be behind the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a sensitive intelligence issue.

Prosecutor Kalina Chapkanova said in a TV interview that before the attack a man believed to be the bomber tried to rent a car in the town of Pomorie, near the site of the bombing. She said the owner of the rental agency, whom she would not identify, become suspicious of his license and refused to conclude the deal.


Obama, Romney seek advantage on health care and the economy

MANALAPAN, Fla. (AP) — President Barack Obama is warning Florida retirees that Republican challenger Mitt Romney would undercut the new health care law and alter Medicare, a play for voters in one of the nation's top swing states.

Obama wraps up a two-day trip to Florida on Friday with stops in Fort Myers and suburban Orlando, where he is pressing the case that retirees would be hurt by Romney's opposition to the health care law and by Republican-led efforts to turn Medicare into a "voucher program." Romney is keeping his focus on the economy, charging that Obama remains more concerned about holding onto his own job than creating more jobs for Americans.

In pre-convention summertime campaigning, Obama and Romney are locked in a tight contest and seeking advantages in about a dozen toss-up states that could help decide the election. None is more prominent than Florida, which narrowly decided the 2000 election and could provide a major boost to whoever prevails here.

Obama, addressing elderly residents of a sprawling South Florida condominium complex on Thursday, jumped on Romney's opposition to the health care law. He said repeal of the law, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, would force more than 200,000 Floridians to pay more for their prescription drugs.

The president charged Romney with seeking to turn Medicare into a voucher program, drawing jeers from retirees at West Palm Beach's Century Village, home to thousands of reliably Democratic voters.


Not just smiling in devotion: Ann Romney, Michelle Obama are showing off their campaign skills

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's no coincidence that Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are showing up a lot more as the tight presidential race barrels into the final few months.

The rival campaigns are rolling out their top assets in a big way. The first lady is the public face of a new grass-roots mobilizing effort for Team Obama. And Mrs. Romney's recent interviews have put her on display cutting through the campaign din — including her blunt statement Thursday that her husband has provided everything that "people need to know" and won't be releasing more tax returns.

Although Mrs. Romney is still largely unknown to a large swath of the public, both women are well regarded by voters in their own parties, and the campaigns are going all-out to use their appeal in ways that go well beyond the traditional presidential cookie bakeoff.

"They really do appear to be in it to win it, both of them, and sincerely in it to win it," says Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush's chief of staff in the White House.

Mrs. Obama on Thursday made her debut as the leader the Obama campaign's new "It Takes One" program, which asks supporters to do one thing to promote the campaign — and to engage someone else to do likewise.


Ex-chair of Penn State trustees board resigns; 1st member to do so following sex abuse scandal

A member and former chairman of the Penn State board of trustees has resigned, saying his presence on the board had become "a distraction and an impediment" to the university's efforts to move forward following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Steve Garban's resignation Thursday night made him the first board member to leave since the crisis engulfed Penn State.

Garban, who had stepped down as board chairman after Sandusky's November arrest but had remained a board member, was harshly criticized over his handling of the Sandusky case. Fellow board members and alumni had called for him to resign.

Garban didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night. In his resignation letter, he said he had "devoted" his adult life to Penn State.

"It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the university that has done so much for me," the letter stated. "Indeed, it is precisely because of my deep gratitude to and respect for my beloved alma mater that I now step aside."


Hundreds of millions of Muslims prepare for Ramadan in scorching summer heat

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades. No food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year.

The test of self-restraint is made only harder by daily power cuts in some parts of the Muslim world such as Iraq, Pakistan and tiny Gaza.

With temperatures in the region routinely climbing above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and days at their longest of the year, governments are trying to alleviate the hardships of the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast. Morocco resets the clock so believers can break the fast an hour early. Pakistan promises to reduce daily blackouts, which can last up to 22 hours. Public servants are allowed to work fewer hours.

Despite the hardship, for many Muslims it's the most anticipated part of the year — a time of family togetherness and religious devotion, a break from routine. Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of their holy book, the Quran, to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan.

The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar. The last time Ramadan started in mid-July was in 1980. Winter fasts are easier because of cooler temperatures and shorter days. This year, Ramadan starts in most parts of the Muslim world on Friday, though some mark the beginning on Saturday.


Government study: Private student loans parallel boom-bust of subprime mortgages

WASHINGTON (AP) — Risky lending caused private student loan debt to balloon in the past decade, leaving many Americans struggling to pay off loans that they can't afford, a government study says.

Private lenders gave out money without considering whether borrowers would repay, then bundled and resold the loans to investors to avoid losing money when students defaulted, according to the study, which is being released Friday.

Those practices are closely associated with subprime mortgage lending, which inflated the housing bubble and helped bring about the 2008 financial crisis.

"Subprime-style lending went to college, and now students are paying the price," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whose department produced the report with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Duncan said the government must do more to ensure that people who received private loans enjoy the same protections as those who borrow from the federal government.


Feds: Traveling hospital tech could have spread hepatitis C beyond NH; 6 states investigating

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Authorities in at least six states are investigating whether a traveling hospital technician accused of infecting 30 people with hepatitis C in New Hampshire also exposed earlier patients to the liver-destroying disease.

David Kwiatkowski, a former technician at Exeter Hospital, was arrested Thursday morning at a Massachusetts hospital where he was receiving treatment. Once he is well enough to be released, he will be transferred to New Hampshire to face federal drug charges, said U.S. Attorney John Kacavas, who called Kwiatkowski, 33, a "serial infector" who worked in at least half a dozen states.

Authorities believe Kwiatkowski stole drugs from a hospital operating room in another state, but they declined to name any of the other states, saying only that they are not clustered in one part of the country. They would not say in what hospital Kwiatkowski was being treated at so he couldn't be contacted for comment.

"We are closer to the beginning of our investigation than the end," Kacavas said.

Investigators believe Kwiatkowski, 33, stole syringes containing fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic more potent than morphine, and injected himself with them. They said he then put another liquid, such as saline, into the syringes, which were later used for patients. They said a search of his vehicle found an empty fentanyl syringe and several needles.


With Olympics opening nearby, London's Cockneys welcome the world with their memorable rhymes

LONDON (AP) — It's a safe bet that most of the 200 or so countries competing in the London Olympics are already represented in the British capital, one of the world's most multicultural cities.

Yet one of London's oldest communities is trying not to get lost in the clamor.

Cockneys have been proud residents of London's East End for centuries — and they want to make sure the world knows it.

"I'm a Cockney and I'm proud to be one," said Lutfur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, an inner-city London borough that stretches from the Tower of London, across the East End to the edge of the city's shiny new Olympic Park.

Bangladesh-born and East End-bred, Rahman may not fit the traditional image of a Cockney, but he is calling for the Cockney dialect to be recognized as an official language of the borough, whose residents already speak 126 different tongues.

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